Center for American Progress

RELEASE: U.S. Teacher Workforce Lacks Diversity, Puts Student Achievement at Risk
Press Release

RELEASE: U.S. Teacher Workforce Lacks Diversity, Puts Student Achievement at Risk

Washington, D.C. — Today, as America’s public schools grow increasingly more diverse every day, a new report released by the Center for American Progress finds that nearly every state is experiencing a large teacher diversity gap, or a significant difference between the number of students and teachers of color.

At some point over the next 10 to 12 years, the nation’s public school K–12 student body will have no one clear racial or ethnic majority. Unfortunately, the makeup of the nation’s teacher workforce has not kept up with these changing demographics. Today teachers of color make up only 17 percent of the teaching force.

In California, the state with the largest teacher diversity gap, 72 percent of students are of color. In contrast, only about 29 percent of teachers are of color, a gap of more than 43 percentage points. The report, entitled "Teacher Diversity Matters: A State-by-State Analysis of Teachers of Color," indicates that such large diversity gaps are common across the country. In fact, more than 20 states have differences of 25 percentage points or more.

“The findings of this report are cause for concern for students, schools, and the public at large,” said Ulrich Boser, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. “A diverse teacher workforce leads to better student performance. Research shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they are taught by teachers of color. Furthermore, teachers of color serve as important role models for students, giving them a clear sense of what a diverse society looks like.”

A companion report also released today by the Center for American Progress, entitled "Increasing Teacher Diversity: Strategies to Improve the Teacher Workforce," highlights innovative teacher recruitment strategies, presents case studies of successful programs, and suggests recommendations for state and local policy to support such strategies and programs. The recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • Increasing federal oversight of and increased accountability for teacher preparation programs
  • Creating statewide initiatives to fund teacher preparation programs aimed at low-income and minority teachers
  • Strengthening federal financial aid programs for low-income students entering the teaching field
  • Reducing the cost of becoming a teacher by creating more avenues to enter the field and increasing the number of qualified credentialing organizations
  • Strengthening state-sponsored and nonprofit teacher recruitment and training organizations by increasing standards for admission, using best practices to recruit high-achieving minority students, and forming strong relationships with districts to ensure recruitment needs are met

"There are a variety of policy and program levers that could enhance the success of programs that recruit and prepare diverse teaching candidates. Ultimately, these programs could dramatically increase the diversity and quality of the teaching force,” said Saba Bireda, deputy director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and co-author of the report.

Read the reports: